“I am larger and better than I thought, I did not think I had so much goodness.” – Walt Whitman
Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by working with all of the categories we have worked with so far or by choosing a few we feel to work with today. It’s your practice, so it’s up to you. As we proceed over the rest of our month-long practice of Metta we will explore working in various ways including the full practice. Some days you may feel to do the full practice; others you may feel to do just a few of the categories. There may be some days when you feel to return your practice solely to yourself to deepen your experience of loving-kindness and compassion. We will continue to explore together and I encourage you to explore on your own as well.
The practice of Metta is about opening one’s heart and inviting loving-kindness and compassion to become a guiding force in life. We cannot control what happens in the world, in our day-to-day experiences or in our relationships. The only thing that we can do is create change in ourselves and in our attitude toward life. Instead of responding from a place of reaction, we can arrive with tenderness and an open heart. When we have uncomfortable feelings arise, we can embrace them with loving-kindness and compassion or we can just be with them. Either way, we can do so in a way that is gentle and loving to ourselves.
Many of us have been taught to put up walls, sometimes fortresses, around ourselves as a mechanism for survival and protection. Creating this type of container may have afforded us some basic protection when we had no other tools but it also limited our ability to experience love on a deeper level. In practicing Metta, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves. As we do this, we begin to melt away some of those walls. Then, we extend the energy of loving-kindness out to others and the world. We recognize that all beings wish to be happy as we wish to be happy. We begin to not only sense, but also experience that we are all the same, that we are one.
As you practice today, I encourage you to allow yourself to feel that sense of connection and oneness. Also, as you go about your day, if you encounter a person or situation which triggers you to put up walls or to feel you are separate or different, explore practicing Metta in that moment – first, for yourself and then, for the others involved. Remind yourself that just as you wish to be happy, all other beings wish to be happy.
Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices. Once again, find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:
- May I have mental happiness.
- May I have physical happiness.
- May I be free of suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories we have worked with or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you. Here is a list of the categories we have worked with:
- Beloved – Family Member or Good Friend
- Neutral Being
- Difficult Person
As you begin each category, acknowledge that just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being whom you are practicing for as do all beings. Then, generate the feelings of loving-kindness for the person or being in that category. Offer the phrases you have been working with:
- May you have mental happiness.
- May you have physical happiness.
- May you be free of suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to the category where you left off. When you feel complete with a category, come back to your own heart center for a moment and reconnect with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion. When you are ready, call on the image of the being or person you will offer Metta for in the next category of your practice. Each time you complete a category, come back to your heart center for a few moments and then move onto the next category.
As I indicated, you can work with all of the categories above or just choose a few for today. We will add the category of All Beings tomorrow. Also, if you don’t feel to do all the categories as part of your sitting practice, you can work with them during the day as you are out and about in the world. And remember, if you don’t have the time or space for a sitting practice right now, you can always do your whole Metta practice out in the world – Anytime, Anywhere!
When you are ready to complete your practice, return to your circle of loving beings or see yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink into you. Let every atom and cell of your being absorb loving-kindness and compassion. Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice for the benefit of your self, others and all beings.
Journal Notes: Are you noticing more openness or resistance to certain categories? Have you found phrases that feel good to you? How does it feel to do a more expanded practice? Are you able to make the time and space to practice? Are you exploring Metta in your daily life? Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?
May you all have happy and fun-filled day.